Archive for January, 2008

Game Review: Mass Effect

January 30, 2008 - 9:13 pm Comments Off

Mass Effect is a ginormous shiny new game for the X-Box 360 from Bioware. The basic mechanic is a mashup of Halo-style first-person space shooter, and sandbox-style RPG. The plot is not entirely free of structure, but if you want to you can play half of the game before ever even starting the third plot-obligatory mission. (And you have a choice of three possibilities for the third plot-obligatory mission, not all of which you need complete.)

Yahtzee hated it, for pretty much all the same reasons we adore it: it’s FREAKINHUGE, to the point where there is no possible way to explore all or even most of the content in a single run-through, it’s very very in-depth in story and character- which can cause a level of talkiness that can annoy even me and apparently made him want to shoot himself in the forehead, and it contains enough options for the customization and tweaking of your character and your character’s gear to satisfy all but the most psychotic tabletop RPG min/maxer. The actual plot of the game happens at about six places. The size of the game itself is exponentially larger, with far more optional side quests than obligatory ones, and more than that the designers went to incredibly anal levels of detail in fleshing out little aspects of the game universe’s backstory and the content of the galaxy itself. All of the planets in each system are examinable, and many of the planets that can’t even be surveyed have some entertaining bit of trivia attached to them. Some writing team very clearly had a lot of fun here, and more than that the writing team is equipped with an impressive store of astronomy: to the extent that can be accomplished given the game’s premise and setting, the physics is surprisingly well done, far more than was strictly necessary.

Like one of Bioware’s previous efforts, Knights of the Old Republic, there is a rudimentary good/evil system in place. The interesting thing is that, unlike KOTOR, it’s not truly a good/evil system, and it doesn’t require you to choose one path or the other. The system is “paragon” versus “renegade”; being an idealistic team player will earn you paragon points, and being an underhanded lone wolf sort will earn you renegade points. It’s far from perfect- it’s much easier to play paragon just because being a blatant hotheaded asshole too often will cost you more than it gains- but it is an improvement over a lot of these sorts of games in that being good is definitely not always the same thing as being right, and also in that it is entirely possible to rack up points in both columns in the same interaction depending on whether you play good cop or bad from moment to moment. (It also affects how much certain of your crew respects you or doesn’t- some aren’t too impressed with a straight goody-goody act and some will be horrified by the Dirty Harry approach.) Ultimately, the only thing paragon or renegade has a *direct* effect on is your ability to access bonus conversational options that play on your reputation and practice as a good guy or a bad one to give you a new (and usually better) way to end a confrontation. No matter if you play the heavy or the paladin, the basic story will still go the same way… but the details will be much different.

The combat is nicely flexible, with basic gameplay options giving you more or less control in exchange for difficulty- very much appreciated by me, because I HATE first person shooters and am no good at them, and appreciated by Stingray, who is the opposite. Beyond that, there are six different character classes, choice of which very much influences the combat experience, and some of which are better for some styles of play than others. (I chose the most tech-heavy class, i.e. the one that would allow me to take cover and fling debuffs at the enemy as opposed to going out and shooting everybody myself.) Very much helping the combat experience is the fact that the game AI for your own team is actually very good: your squadmates are very far from useless, and will make semi-intelligent decisions about which of their abilities to use and when entirely on your own, which is very nice when they notice the hostiles about to jump your ass from behind while you’re busy trying to figure out the best line of fire on the guy in front of you. More interestingly, often your squadmates will work much better or worse in certain combinations; both of us have developed favorite teams for different situations based less on the available pool of abilities than on the likelihood that the two crewmembers will play well with each other. The game recommends a “balance” of the three major ability classes (tech, biotic, and combat), but we long ago ditched trying to “balance” in favor of trying to find efficient team combinations- which often has nothing to do with “balance”. The squad AI does suffer from some irritating recurrent flaws- most notably the tendency to walk into your line of fire or hit you from behind- but it’s not a crippling one. The enemy AI is also good, with the game’s synthetic AI having the interesting feature of improving exponentially with the number of synthetics on the battlefield. Alone or in small groups, they’re stupid; as a large group, they’re frustratingly efficient. The organic AI is more even, with different groups being more or less difficult depending on the “type”. (Hint: the turian pirates are BASTARDS.) Enemy level scales to your level, so there’s no power-levelling in this game. As I said, I really dislike first-person shooters as a rule, but even I could appreciate the amount of the combat that became easier or harder depending on your tactical savvy; reflexes are not the key to victory here, deciding the most logical way to assault the enemy’s position is, and there’s usually more than one good choice.

I’ve seen the vehicle-based portions of the game criticized, but I honestly can’t imagine why; as this sort of thing goes, the armed rover-type vehicle they give you was one of the best I’ve ever played with. Different planets have different gravity levels and terrain types, which can make just driving around different places fun and interesting all their own. Maybe it’s just my lack of wider experience and missing out on truly awesome military space vehicle-age, but at least the Mako is much better than Halo’s Warthogs. Running over mercenaries was fun, too.

As for the much-vaunted romance subplots- you can see somebody’s bare butt if you successfully close the deal, oh boy- I’ll quote the Three Panel Soul guys: this is the only game I have ever played where it is possible to accidentally have lesbian sex. Too bad the “lesbian” was as annoying as she was, having the unique status of being the only crew character I disliked.

Basically, this is a first-person shooter welded to an RPG frame. If you are a first-person shooter guy that normally disdains RPGs, it is very likely that this game will annoy you, as it contains several exaggerations of elements that RPG lovers love RPGs for. You will be screaming “GET ON WITH IT!!!!” before you even get planetside, I promise. However, if you an RPG player that normally disdains shooters for all their twitch gaming and shallowness, you will probably adore this game. I know I certainly enjoyed playing an RPG that did not involve being in charge of a bunch of girls with huge swords, some of which are alleged to be male. This game is a lot closer to being Oblivion in space than it is to being Doom with customizable characters.

Campaign Zydeco: Sabre Rattling Doesn't Fly Here

January 29, 2008 - 2:00 pm Comments Off

Sunny’s Campaign may have hit a slight bump while her campaign manager attempts to feel like something other than fermented ass, but Zydeco’s unstoppable surge to the office of VP continues unabated. Today we’re going to look at Zydeco’s relationships with bullies. You know, the type that say things like “meat is murder!” or “This cartoon is so offensive we must kill people” or “Fill out this form, pay us $200, get permission from your local chief of law enforcement…”. You know, the usually impotent little turds in the punch bowl that nobody likes. Well, Zydeco hates empty threats too. If you bring a threat to Zydeco or Zydeco’s allies, you’d better have your fightin’ boots on ’cause you’re gonna need ‘em.

Some time ago, we were forced into one of our ever joyous trips to Phoenix. All logistics worked out, it was to be that Zydeco (along with Kodos who doesn’t factor into this story) was going to stay with my parents for the duration. My parents have a cat of their own, a persnickety and generally snotty part-Siamese by the name of Ceilidh. This was the first time Zydeco was boarding at their house, so we introduced them gently and did all the normal “be civil you brats” routines. Everything seemed fine. Zydeco was making generous efforts to try to play with Ceilidh, and generally being a gentleman about things despite his natural state of chaotic evil alignment. Ceilidh, being snotty and persnickety, would have none of it and did the usual hiss-and-run routine. This did not concern Zydeco, who made himself at home on my dad’s lap (after teaching my mother that she was not of the Certain People allowed to pick him up). The rest of the visit went uneventfully.

We returned some days later, the scratch on Mom’s cheek healing nicely, and proceded to round up all the pets and pet related support gear. I had left a bag near the front door, in front of Ceilidh’s favorite chair. Zydeco, being delighted at our return, was doing his damndest to trip everyone in his efforts to rub against our legs and so forth. Ceilidh, presumably just wanting to ensure that he was leaving, slinked in and took up a post on her chair. Now it should be noted that while Ceilidh is generally an annoying little creature prone to hissing and growling at everything from stray air molecules to invading armies, she holds a special place of hatred for me specifically. Nobody is quite sure why, but to this day she hisses, growls, and runs as soon as she sees me.

I was about done gathering pet supplies, and went to fiddle with the bag I’d left near her chair. Zydeco was still on my heels about six feet back, coming to investigate and make sure I wasn’t planning on going anywhere without him again. As I approached Ceilidh, she did her usual routine and fired off a quick hiss at me. Zydeco ceased purring instantly and emitted a low growl, and dropped into pounce stance. I muttered something to the effect of “Oh shut up, Ceilidh,” and proceded to mess with my bag. Apparently the foot of her chair was too close for her liking, because she begain to swat at the air to warn me off.

This was unacceptable.

Zydeco covered the few feet fast enough that it could probably be considered teleportation. Claws were fully deployed, biting commenced, and were the growls and yowls translated into human, it would probably make the most inspired profanity I’ve ever shouted seem tame and suitable for church. Everybody (except apparently Ceilidh) had heard Zydeco’s warning growl, so we were all already aware that a problem could occur, and were quickly in motion to separate the two. The tangle of fur made two orbits around the room in about three seconds before anybody was able to block the orbital path. My Dad, the unlucky interceptor, managed to get an arm into the fracas and pull them appart. Zydeco attached himself to the damned nusiance preventing him from concluding his explanation to Ceilidh about how that had been a Dumb Move, and left some nice puncture wounds and gouges before his IFF kicked in and he realized who he was attacking. Hostilities ceased instantly, and he mustered quite a convincing “Who, me?” expression. Ceilidh used the opportunity to engage her own teleporters and vanished to some favored hiding spot until we left. Zydeco went into his crate, Dad’s wounds were dressed, and we departed with pets so my folks could coax Ceilidh out to check her wounds. She wound up with a few stitches to her hindquarters and had more than a little fur missing, Dad wound up with a tetanus shot. LabRat and I did our best to stifle the laughter until we were safely out of earshot, then promptly petted and praised the bejesus out of our new Attack Cat. Zydeco now lives in Dad’s garage (which by itself is bigger than the place we lived in before we bought our house, so he’s not exactly roughing it) when we go on travel.

Remember: If you threaten Zydeco, or Zydeco’s interests, you will receive the worst ass-whupping of your life.

Tis the Season

January 28, 2008 - 5:47 pm Comments Off

For girl scout cookies. And that means it’s time for bitter, angry complaining from a good chunk of the blogosphere about how lazy the little brats are today just having mommy and daddy do the work for them with the help of resentful co-workers, along with plenty of “Back in MY day it was uphill both ways through seven feet of snow with the wolves and yeti on our heels while our math teachers beat us with axe handles to make sure we could figure out not to buy houses we couldn’t afford” style commentary. Now granted, that is a pretty lame trend, and those parents do suck, but such angry commentary will not issue from here! We just got honest-to-god on foot door-to-door girl scouts. And the weather outside ain’t exactly pleasant, with the wind blowing at a nice steady 10-15 with gusts up to 25ish, a rapidly dropping temperature, and light but persistant snow. Their mom was with ‘em, she didn’t drive them from house to house (and on our street, we aren’t crammed in like in the typical suburban sardine can, so it’s a pretty good march), they were polite and frankly downright sweet (“Oh, what a pretty cat! Ours is afraid of everything!”).

So yeah. Suck on that, bitter blogosphere. Our girl scouts kick ass.

Campaign Zydeco: the softer side

January 27, 2008 - 7:35 pm Comments Off

Zydeco kisses babies

Zydeco is not exclusively about violent death, unchecked hate, and the gleeful mockery of the inferior. Zydeco has a sweet side, a tender cuddliness to him, which often puts me in mind of a baby polar bear. For starters, he’s a romantic: he selected my spouse for me.

After he grew out of kittenhood, Zydeco began to form Opinions about people. No longer was it sufficient for people to simply awe and fear him in order to gain his affection and approval; no, they had to be worthy of his notice. He still liked ME- I was his provider of food, toys, room in bed, and punching bag, so that was all right- but he figured that most of the rest of the human race had just about lost whatever meager charm it possessed. I left him with my mother while I went off to do the college thing, and while he was willing to sit on her*, he wasn’t otherwise much interested in giving her the time of day. He refrained from drawing blood, because he isn’t quite stupid enough to bite the Hand That Giveth The Kibble, but that was about all he was willing to offer. He ignored guests beyond the time it took him to sniff them and yell at them if they confused interest with friendliness, and he drew quite a bit of blood from the evil little shit that was often over while I was gone. (He was slow on the uptake of “if the cat doesn’t want to be touched, the cat will scratch you, and he WILL go for the face”.)

So, by the time Stingray had been the Male In My Life long enough to justify visiting me at home, I was long and well accustomed to the idea that Zydeco hated and despised every over-ambitious monkey on the planet except me. In a perverse way, I kind of liked it- there’s a bit of backwards pleasure in being genuinely liked by an animal that wants to kill every other living thing with fire. This syndrome probably also explains a lot about why I found Stingray attractive in the first place. So when I brought him home to meet my family for the first time, I was simply glad that the cat wasn’t actively hovering over us and challenging the competitor for my affections. (My family loved Stingray. The feeling was not entirely mutual.)

Then, much later, I was off getting us a couple of cold drinks, and then walked back only to find my boyfriend holding my cat. Not sitting frozen while the cat angrily pinned the lap-monkey in place. Not trying to pry the cat off his face. Not leaning over to try to pet the cat while the cat stayed disdainfully out of reach. Holding the cat in his arms. I nearly dropped the drinks.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“I’m… petting… this cat?”

“You can’t do that!”

“…Why not?”

“Well he… because he… he scratches everyone but me!”

“No he doesn’t. He likes it. See? He’s purring.”

“…Here’s your drink. Nice kitty…”

And that was that. Zydeco gave him his full seal of approval from then on, always greeted him warmly, followed him around and talked to him, played with him, argued with him, and slept on his lap. Actually, since moving in together, he’s really been more Stingray’s cat than mine- they seem to understand each other. They certainly have an understanding- when Zydeco needs to go to the vet, we always have Stingray hold him, because he’s the last person Zydeco is willing to draw blood from. (Which is not the same as “at all”. He just won’t hurt Stingray nearly as much as some chump tech.)

Ladies, when your homicidal cat finds a boyfriend of yours he likes… hang on to him. The endorsement is solid gold; it’s worked out for me so far.

*If you should happen to find yourself in our home, do not assume that because the cat is willing to sit on your lap, the cat has accepted you. It just means he thinks your body temperature is pleasingly high and you can probably be trusted not to try hugging him or something. It doesn’t mean he LIKES you, and you’ll know about it if you try to pet him.

Sunny/Zydeco '08!

January 25, 2008 - 7:02 pm Comments Off

As we all know by now, Sunny Lucas is running for president. This is an extremely good thing, as Sunny’s positions are better than the rest of the field combined, and she is less likely to make a mess in the oval office than Hillary. Unfortunately, as of yet she has not picked a running mate, and is running into some rather strong opposition from feline special interest groups. In order to solve both of these problems in one fell swoop, Zydeco is stepping up. Neither Sunny nor her campaign manager Rachel have been consulted on this, but that’s just how Zydeco rolls. He doesn’t have time for pointless meetings and negotiations. When Zydeco wants something, he damn well takes it. Can Zydeco hang with a big mean Rhodesian Ridgeback? Let’s ask the big mean Akita!

Since the issues are what really matter, let’s get down to brass tacks. For the most part, Zydeco and Sunny agree on the issues, but there are a few points of notable differences we should cover.

CIVIL RIGHTS
Zydeco hates you, personally. Zydeco will not only find it hilarious when a hippy gets tasered, he’ll probably be wielding the stun gun himself. Zydeco is not only in favor of treating people who are members of organizations which wish to blow us up harshly, he is also listed as an official torture instrument with the CIA. Zydeco will get information out of those sissies at Gitmo. Zydeco loves all civil liberties so much he will even look into restoring some ancient ones- like duelling. Zydeco is looking particularly forward to the use of this venerable institution with respect to the press corps. Zydeco not only believes that special prosecution of “hate crimes” is a violation of civil liberties, he believes that if you didn’t really hate the person you were committing a crime against, it clearly wasn’t worth it and you should be punished more harshly for your apathy.

ENERGY AND OIL
While Zydeco agrees with Sunny that we need to separate from foreign sources of oil/pork protected by yappy little shitzhus, he feels we should also increase our reliance on other sources of power, specifically nuclear energy. Zydeco lives in Los Alamos, what did you expect him to back for energy production? Cleaner than fossil fuel by orders of magnitude, more efficient, and that blue glow is just so damn pretty! Zydeco also believes this is another area in which civil liberties have been shamefully curtailed: provided their plans are approved and the structure passes inspection before activation, every citizen should be able to run their own backyard breeder reactor. While Zydeco acknowledges that wind farms take up a good deal of space and can be a bit of an eyesore, Zydeco also supports any form of renewable, clean energy that causes bits of minced bird to periodically rain from the sky.

GUNS
More please. Zydeco supports disbanding the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Zydeco feels that while the saying is cliche at this point, that such an organization sounds like it should be a convenience store is accurate. There will no longer be a $200 tax stamp attached to the transfer of fully automatic weapons or suppressors, or any limitations to ownership of same based on when it was made. If you can afford to feed the thing, you’re welcome to it. Likewise, all FFLs will be invalidated – buying and selling guns will be no different than buying or selling any other tool. If you commit a crime with any sort of firearm after these changes take place, then you just earned yourself triple whatever the normal sentence is, and you’d better hope you don’t get the death penalty because Zydeco will ressurect you and kill you twice more. Zydeco loves guns, and hates when people are dumbasses with or about them. Remember the four rules, and Zydeco thinks you’re good to go.

DRUGS
Zydeco feels that it is the right of every human being to be as completely and utterly stupid as they can imagine, so that Zydeco can laugh at them. However, Zydeco acknowledges that there are some substances whose potential for damage is greater than others. Zydeco does not support pursuing the substances, however, as much as he supports harsh punishment of stupidity that harms others, particularly violent stupidity, in conjunction with proceeding to target people who are violently stupid on a repeat basis. Zydeco also believes that any substance whose primary effects are apathy, appetite, and affection should not only not be illegal, but that it should be distributed on a mandatory basis to Democrats and other people Zydeco wants to stop bothering him. As a related part of his policy views, Zydeco would like to federally outlaw regional bans and punitive taxes on substances and habits that harm no one but the user and do not affect state of mind, such as tobacco and trans-fats.

Aside from these minor points of difference, Sunny and Zydeco are remarkably in synch on the issues. One final parting note worth considering, is that since one of the crucial roles of the vice president is to intimidate cast the deciding vote in the Senate, Zydeco wishes to remind everybody that he is, in fact, a siamese cat and thus can yell more angrily and more loudly than any pantywaist currently or forseeably in the Senate. Zydeco also wishes to use Teddy Kenedy’s leg as a scratching post, but this is more of a personal issue and not particularly important to the Sunny/Zydeco platform overall. Thank you for your support, and remember to vote early and vote often!

Buried in the back

January 23, 2008 - 9:25 pm Comments Off

It seems like all the news is either about:

a) The primary race, which I’m not really interested in talking about because I so quickly degenerate into angry muttering noises, dismissive hand gestures, and then I start looking around for something with alcohol in it…

or

b) The death of Heath Ledger, and while I agree he was pretty hot and a surprisingly competent actor, I hadn’t the faintest clue he was this important. I went over to Fox News yesterday and was greeted with the biggest display of random flower shrines and weepy faces I’d seen since Princess Di. I feel like I’ve somehow missed something, possibly because I hadn’t seen him in anything since A Knight’s Tale. Maybe I should rent Brokeback. I gave it a miss because I didn’t think a few hours of moody lovers would get any more interesting if they were both men, but maybe I was wrong?

So, I’ve been trying to find news that is about neither. So far I’ve come up with:
Police Chief’s Wife Charged With Sex, Drugs With Boys
From the unfortunate headlining it sounds as though she’s been accused of sex in general, which perhaps police chief’s wives aren’t allowed, and then possibly boy-related drugs. LSD blotter paper with little pictures of Harry Potter on them, maybe. But, it turns out that it was far less interesting and more tawdry than that, and she was playing the booze, drug, and blowjob hookup for a couple of teenagers.

Is it just me, or is this- middle-aged women seducing teenage boys- getting increasingly common? It seems like we went from one or two high-profile cases of a teacher being found to have diddled her students, then to the teachers falling in love with and having children of their own by those students, then to absconding to Mexico with them before they’re even likely to have grown pubic hair. Or is it just a reporting-rate phenomenon? The common atittude of “Hur hur hur, wish some broad woulda done that when I was thirteen, lucky guy” is turning around to the point where it’s prosecuted rather than winked at? I’d like to think the latter- it’s a lot less creepy.

Starbucks investigates business strategy: cheap, plain coffee

Apparently they’re feeling undercut by McDonald’s and Dunkin’s, so they’re test driving small cups of regular old drip coffee for which they charge a dollar, and presumably don’t force you to use a silly name. On the one hand, I want to shrug and say “good move, it’s about time”. On the other hand, this is sort of like seeing BMW come out with an economy grocery-getter to compete with the Honda Civic.

Via Terrierman again, if you are a British children’s theater troupe, evidently you now need to watch your backs for the health and safety officials: They’ve ordered a pantomime troupe to keep the toy guns that go bang in a locked box when not in use, have someone in charge of the plastic and wooden swords which must also be locked up when not in use, and a university academic vetted the fight scene to make sure it was safe. British government seems to be in a very determined race to render all satire obsolete by 2020 by becoming more ridiculous than anyone can possibly imagine. Has someone told them they’re miles ahead of the competition? If they know that, perhaps they can slow down a little. Think of the comedians!

Shocker: Same-sex couples pretty much work like opposite-sex couples do

In one of those “no, really?” studies, committed pairs of men and men or women and women are pretty much no more or less screwed up than pairs of men and women. This is one of those things that has always baffled me: the perception that it’s somehow really different if you haven’t got one of each in the mix. You have to deal with all the same issues save for a few technical details, so why should it be? Then again, I find those “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” people equally baffling.

Dietary Guidelines May Do More Harm Than Good

In other News of the Hand Meets Forehead, some people are actually questioning whether or not the government shrieking “FAT IS BAD! EAT LESS FAT!” at the population for thirty years might have, in a stunning display of unforeseen consequences, led this population to replace it with starchy carbs and this might have something to do with the current rocketing rates of type II diabetes and other metabolic problems. I THINK MAYBE, GUYS. Seriously, why does anyone trust that the same organization that couldn’t run the post office will provide them with reliable dietary advice?

Super Suck Tuesday

January 22, 2008 - 9:09 pm Comments Off

Well let’s just take a moment to recap, shall we? Wall Street does a passable imitation of Tommy Smothers and I similarly do a pretty good imiation of some classic art myself when I check my 401k. CNN continues to offer the voters the stirring choice between The Black Guy and The Chick (because republican candidates don’t count and aren’t that republican anyway so who cares), while both sides of the aisle try to find someone to field who can actually spell “constitution” without help, let alone one that knows what any of the items on the Bill of Rights are. Fred drops out of the race, ensuring that the only choices for republicans are either opposed to free speech, confused about separation of church and state, of the opinion that the 2nd Amendment just doesn’t count, or are flat out fucking insane. Go America! This’ll be a fun four years no matter what! Next up, one of Hollywood’s few competent male actors who does not resemble some sort of androgynous sci-fi being is dead, leaving the total testosterone count in the screen actor’s guild severely depleted. Team Rootkit Sony extends a heartfelt finger to HD-DVD consumers letting us know that we are number one, leaving us to wait with baited breath for the next wave of utter bullshit DRM to issue forth from their ever consumer-friendly offices. With luck, we won’t be sued for having HD-DVD content in the house, but knowing Sony I won’t hold my breath. On the local front, my kitchen is apparently undergoing some sort of minor demonic posession as things I can normally do with my eyes closed lead to gooey explosions, burns, and gouged linoleum. The damndest part is that apparently this shitty day is not an isolated event.

I was going to add something about the increasing fervor surrounding Heller vs. DC and how it’ll enshrine our right to keep guns in the house… as long as they have the appropriate number of US made parts, pass drop tests, don’t fire too big a bullet, are locked/registered/whatever, but at this point I’m way past overdue for some scotch, a cigar (while they’re still legal) and a last HD Hurrah. Anybody wants me for anything before tomorrow, you better have a warrant.

Pick Flick!

January 20, 2008 - 5:02 pm Comments Off

I haven’t commented much on the primary races, because they mainly make me want to become the first assassin to take down multiple candidates from both major parties.

However, there’s an awesome video from Slate sending up the Clinton campaign with scenes from the movie Election that carries at least a level three drink warning- if you’ve seen the movie. Not quite sure how hilarious it is if you haven’t, but it is spot. freakin’. on.

Courtesy Bob’s Blog.

Lust

January 20, 2008 - 12:46 pm Comments Off

Don’t worry, this post is safe for work (if you’re unfortunate enough to be there on a Sunday). There will be no images catering to the increasingly unlikely mammary configurations google images seems to think we contain. No, I’m talking about real lust. The deep down in the bones Oh-My-GOD that only the truly awe inspiring manage to elicit. Behold.

The 2009 Corvette ZR1. Supercharged with 620 horsepower from a 378 cubic inch smallblock engine (6.2L for you metric weenies). That even blows past the legendary L88 produced between ’67 and ’69, and if that doesn’t make you feel a little happy in the pants region, you need to check your pulse. Last night at the Barrett Jackson Auction ZR1 number 0001 (along with a plethora of add-ons and bonuses like being the first person to start the engine, taking delivery in either Bowling Green or Jay Leno’s garage, a class at Bondurant’s, etc) sold in a charity auction for one million dollars. In twenty five years time, I suspect that will seem like a steal. With the new 35mpg mandate, there is a good chance this will be the last truly impressive Corvette for some time; remember what happened to the line in ’73?

I could wax on about the Corvette for another thousand or ten words, but what praise can I offer to these mechanical masterpieces that hasn’t already been sung from every velocity-loving rooftop? The performance from this humble American everyman’s sports car hangs with, and as often as not stomps, the offerings from the European and Japanese markets, and does so at a fraction of the cost. The latest offering from Lamborghini, modeled on the F-22 Raptor (and incredibly sexy, I must concede) will sell for over half a million dollars. It will not offer a similarly inflated performance advantage over the latest from Bowling Green. Porsche might be able to muster something faster or more nimble, but you can bet your sweet bippy it’ll punish your bank account for every extra mile per hour or every tenth second saved. If you can sweet talk your Ferarri into running long enough you might be able to out drive the Vette, but enjoy the next six weeks in the garage after being so brazen as to push your quarter mil’s worth of ride to keep up.

Long live the King.

If you must eat to live, what's wrong with living to eat?

January 17, 2008 - 8:39 pm Comments Off

Michael Pollan has a new book out. It’s called In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, and it’s about damn time.

Knowing Pollan, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to be in there, and the “motto” says a lot: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. I don’t agree with absolutely everything Pollan, but I respect him a lot- the guy made his bones as a skilled and thorough science writer, and his words being driven by science and sense rather than sensationalism is always a safe bet. He covers a lot of themes near and dear to me; the idea that our cultural fear of fat is not only rather lunatic but also essentially baseless, that there’s not a damn thing unhealthy about meat except for the way it’s raised (and should probably be hunted more often), and that declaring war on macronutrients (fat, carbs, etc.) is really rather silly in general.

What mostly gets me behind him even when I have a problem with him- rejecting supermarkets and relying on farmer’s markets is really not an option for most of America, for example- is the idea that our biggest problem is an irrational and reactionary and ever-mutating fear of food itself.

Me, I adore food, and I love to eat. Saying that is in itself rather radical and reactionary, and the instant mental image it conjures if you’re not looking at me is a fat activist justifying their size. (For the record, I can’t see my abs, but I’m not fat either- at least my doctor seems to think so.) A girl or woman visibly enjoying tucking into her food on a date- especially if it’s a steak and not a salad- is regarded as an increasingly rare animal, as the idea is that she should be giving the impression she actually is indifferent to food both to communicate that she’s not going to get fat and dispel any notions that she’s, y’know. Kind of… morally questionable. I mean, if she enjoys food, then what if she really enjoys sex, too? Could be a slut. In all fairness, this attitude seems to have been disseminated by women, who seem to be their own enemy as often as men can be, but the fact that it’s there at all speaks to something overall wrong with our culture. You can survive, if unhappily, without sex, but you HAVE to eat to live. Where did this idea that taking pleasure in something you’ve got to do anyway could be sinful in and of itself arise? The idea of gluttony as a sin? Gluttony is mindless and destructive indulgence to the point of ruining yourself or depriving others- not liking cheeseburgers or being twenty pounds overweight.

Actually, I’m pretty sure the fact that I like food as much as I do, for itself, is actually WHY I’m not fat. The more good food- well-prepared from high-quality ingredients- I eat, the less I want to bother with an inferior version, and the less I’m inclined to eat or snack just to have something in my mouth and stomach. Once you get used to carefully chewing a mouthful of food in order to draw out the pleasure of that bite and speculate on what the flavors are and where they’re from, eating Fritos at your computer desk loses its appeal. Commercial cookies start to take on an unpleasant metallic aftertaste once you get accustomed enough to actually tasting to be able to pick out the more esoteric preservatives. And being hungry ceases to be all that distressing an experience when you associate it with deliberately ditching lunch so that a special dinner will be all the more savory instead of being caught with no options but the vending machine or fast food after you spaced a meal.

I’m still very slow food/locavore/primal-food-incorrect. I have several weaknesses for thoroughly processed and “fake” food- my biggest and most inexplicable is a periodic craving for those hideous “nachos” made of cardboard corn chips and a vivid hunter-orange cheeselike substance- and I still regard a Coke with all the sugar as not only pleasant, but an indispensable accompaniment to a hot dog. (I don’t really care what’s in the hot dog, either. It could be Jimmy Hoffa and I’d still wolf it down if it had lots of sauerkraut and hot mustard.) I’ll eat nearly anything out of a street-vendor cart, and probably won’t think about any potential consequences until I’m experiencing them, if I do at all. In my heart of hearts, I still think a real grilled cheese sandwich is made with Wonder Bread and Kraft. Primal man may have lived mainly off fresh and free-range vegetables, fruit, meat, and seafood, but I’ve got an indiscriminate scavenger programmed in there as much as a hunter-gatherer. I see no reason to dispense completely with comfort food unless I get it into my head that I really DO want a clear view of my abs more, and I don’t really see that happening.

That said, my next step will be joining a CSA for the bulk of our produce. Farmer’s markets mean getting up too goddamn early, and the only people who think that ageless iceberg lettuce and artifically reddened tomatoes are food either don’t taste or fear flavor.